Is there any image that defines 13 years of Tory neglect more than children sat in classrooms held up with props to stop the ceiling falling on their heads?

The chicken of failed austerity is coming home to roost, and children up and down the country are paying the price.

The Tories came into government in 2010 and to great fanfare, Michael Gove cancelled Labour’s school rebuilding programme. Now buildings are literally collapsing and instead of accepting responsibility, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wants you to thank them for it.  

One of the schools affected by Raac is Hornsey School for Girls, so I was offered a phone call with the schools minister when the news broke. 

You’d think she might have bothered to read the survey findings before we spoke, but you’d be wrong. 

Ham & High: Catherine West has spoken to the education secretary about Raac in schoolsCatherine West has spoken to the education secretary about Raac in schools (Image: Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons licence CC BY 3.0))

Thankfully, the senior leadership team at Hornsey School for Girls has been working closely with Haringey Council since their detailed structural survey in June and building works have been taking place over the summer to safely minimise disruption as pupils returned. 

On the call, I pushed for details of any other public buildings in Hornsey and Wood Green, including NHS and court buildings, that are similarly affected. The minister gave me an undertaking I’d receive that information, but as I write this I’m still waiting. 

I also reminded the minister that it was the third conversation we’d had about the urgent need for school building improvements over recent years. Not just at Hornsey School for Girls, but at Fortismere, Highgate Wood and more. 

I’ve repeatedly called for support for schools in my constituency hit by dangerous asbestos, Dickensian sports facilities, and crumbling, end-of-life buildings. Every time the minister would nod sympathetically and go on to do absolutely nothing.

Now we learn that it was then chancellor Rishi Sunak’s reckless decision to slash budgets for school rebuilding, reportedly against the advice of officials, that led to buildings so dilapidated they are at risk of partial closure being refused money under the school’s rebuilding scheme. 

In Parliament, Labour forced a binding vote to push for the release of documents to show what the Prime Minister knew and when.

This is another staggering display of Tory incompetence that, yet again, has ended up costing us all. 

Labour knows that children can’t get a first-rate education in a second-rate school – when will the Government take responsibility for decision after decision to slash spending on school safety? 

  • Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.